Wales shows England how local food should be promoted
A two-day global meet-the-buyer event for Welsh producers staged in March has underlined the gulf in Government-level promotion for small food businesses between England and the rest of the UK.
TasteWales, staged for the second time by the Welsh Government at the Celtic Manor Resort near Newport, Gwent, brought together over 200 trade buyers – more than a third of them from overseas – with around 100 Welsh food and drink producers.
These ranged from established exporters like Anglesey Sea Salt to recent start-ups such as Cariad Bakery and The Mountain Chocolate Company, with most falling firmly into the ‘speciality’ bracket.
Speaking to FFD at the event, Welsh food minister Lesley Griffiths said: “It’s too early to say how much new business has been created, but companies have already told me they’ve made more contacts in 24 hours here than they could in 18 months on their own.”
The first TasteWales event was held in March 2017, in the wake of the previous year’s Brexit referendum, and is claimed to have generated over £14m in extra sales and contracts.
Buyers attending this year – many of them bussed to Wales from London, where they had been attending the giant IFE food show -– included major retailers and importers from the UAE, Qatar and Japan.
Griffiths said her message to producers since the Brexit vote had been: “You need to be looking further afield.”
Scottish producers benefit from a similar biannual event, Showcasing Scotland. But there is no equivalent for speciality producers in England.
Griffiths said the size of the Welsh food sector made it easier to form direct relationships. “We have around 800 food and drink producers, and my officials probably know them all. In fact, I probably know them all myself. So it’s much easier to have that connectivity.”
However, pressed on whether the UK government could be doing a better job to support English producers, she said: “It’s not for me to tell [Defra secretary] Michael Gove what he should do. But this event just would not happen in England, with the level of Government support and ministerial visibility you have here.”
This story appeared in the April issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.
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